Neshama’s Choices for July 8

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Hard by a Great Forest by Leo Vardiashvili

In England, Saba is worried about his father Irakli’s disappearance when he travels back to Georgia, the country the family fled long ago. First, his brother Sandro goes there to track their father down. With no news from either, Saba takes off as well, trying to follow a trail of clues Irakli left. The quest takes on fairy-tale dimensions as Saba is helped by Nodar, a taxi driver who provides lodging, guidance, and ends up deeply involved. Ghosts have a strong presence, especially their mother; they had to leave her behind when they emigrated. Government interference hampers the search as well. The book is an intriguing mix of history and personal journey. Saba’s narration is lively and immediate. I also learned a lot about poor Georgia, a victim of multiple invasions through the decades.


Victim by Andrew Boryga

Javier is a smart kid from the hood who writes well and manages to get a full scholarship to college. His application presents the first clue to the premise of the novel. His guidance counselor implies that he must come off as troubled and challenged by circumstance, so he fudges by claiming neighborhood tragedies as his own. When he graduates, he continues the ruse which gets him a regular column in a progressive rag. Of course, it all comes tumbling down—job gone, reputation besmirched, relationship trashed (he wrote about his girlfriend, no name of course, but she called out his lies) and he ends up sadder, possibly a little wiser, and certainly humbled by circumstance. The irony: he just gave them what they wanted…


Ghost Dogs by Andre Dubus III

Subtitled On Killers and Kin. These essays give us direct entry into many aspects of Dubus’ life. He’s such a great storyteller and I enjoyed getting to know his Southern relatives, his conflicts over real (man’s) hard work vs writing, and his sweet marriage and children. The most intense material comes out when he examines the violence inside himself, especially around guns. My only quibble: the pieces initially appeared in various magazines so there’s some repetitive material. 


Private Citizens by Tony Tulathimutte

In 2007, four college chums ended up in the Bay Area, trying to figure out what to do with their lives. There’s Asian-American Will who lives primarily on the internet. Cory, who wants to save the world. Hendrik is a scientist on the spectrum. And Linda, a dangerous wild card who careens in and out of their turf. Much of the action takes place in an urban commune where they all end up. It’s spectacularly dysfunctional. Lots of wicked satire. The author is Very Smart; I actually had to look up some words which seldom happens.